Category Archives: French Culture

This is rather long.

By   November 15, 2007

I realized I haven’t made an actual post in quite a while. I guess that means nothing too interesting has been happening. I’m still commuting more than an hour to work 3 days a week, and it’s made me so incredibly tired. Plus we have no heat in our apartment, so I have to spend the rest of my time under a huge couette in order to not freeze to death. (We supposedly have chauffage dalle – heating in the floor – but it does not work at all and our crappy radiators don’t heat anything.)

I did absolutely nothing during the Toussaint vacation. It went by so quickly, but I have no recollection of actually doing anything worthwhile besides cleaning the apartment. I definitely have no photos of foreign cities that I’m dying to visit. I’m so jealous of the other assistants who actually get paid by the rectorat so they can go on vacation. One of these days I’ll travel again. But considering that I’ve already flown 5 times this year, I’m content to stay home with David & Canaille en ce moment.

Ah yes, the rectorat. I finally received my new arrêté de nomination this week. Normally, assistants receive these work contracts during the summer in their home countries so that they can get a visa in order to come to France. But since I was hired in the last week of September and live in France already, the rectorat took their sweet time sending it to me. Now I need to get the procès-verbal from my school, and take both to the préfecture so I can have a travailleur temporaire residency card and actually get paid for working. It’s been nearly 6 weeks and I have yet to fill out any official paperwork stating that I do indeed have a job.

I currently do co-voiturage on Tuesdays instead of taking the train. I work 9-11, 2-4 & 5-6. We leave Annecy at 6:45 am and return at 7 pm. I absolutely hate Tuesdays. On Thursdays, I work at the middle school, sometimes 2-5pm and sometimes 8-11am. The problem is that it’s 4 km from the gare, so someone always has to drive me to and from there. On Fridays, I work 10-11 and 2-4 (or 3-4 in week B). I have to leave Annecy at 8am and I get back at 7pm, just to work 2 or 3 hours. I know the teachers can’t change the schedule because that’s just when the English classes are, and it’s not like the train schedule can be modified either. But it’s frustrating that the only reason I don’t like my job is the commute; it doesn’t even have anything to do with the teaching part!

Unfortunately, the stupid strikes are affecting me a little. There were no trains today, but I was able to go to work with another teacher who lives in Annecy. And then David had to drive 40 minutes to pick me up afterwards (luckily he had already taken the day off). If he hadn’t done that, I’d probably still be in the mountains, waiting for any train that I could hop on. I don’t even know if there will be trains tomorrow, so maybe I won’t be able to make it to work. Which makes me hate these strikes even more. It’s fine if you want to strike and protest against issues that you disagree with, but when it affects everyone else and their ability to get to work (and therefore get paid), it’s not so great.

I am still searching for an automatic car so I can be more independent and not waste my life in train stations. I managed to transfer enough money from the US (and lose a huge chunk of it thanks to the awesomely bad exchange rate), now I just need to find a car that isn’t so far away. Most of them I’ve found are in Bourgogne or on the other side of Lyon.

One thing I did manage to do recently was sort out stuff at my bank. You see, here in France, people who are under 25 have all sorts of special discounts and deals. But apparently when you get OLD, all of those perks are taken away from you. My bank card was a special “under 25” card, and instead of automatically ordering a new, regular (old people) bank card when the original expired at the end of October, my bank just decided to do nothing. Including not notifying me that I had to make an appointment just to tell them that I do want a new card. I also found out that I cannot open a LEP account (best savings account available) because I am not a French citizen. So I opened what I could – a CSL with a 2 % interest rate every YEAR. Umm, wow. My ING account in the US has a 4 % rate every MONTH.

Speaking of US things… my beloved Thanksgiving! I will never get used to the idea of working on Thanksgiving. I hate going to school and teaching about the holiday instead of staying home and eating food and watching the Lions lose. French kids will never truly understand the holiday or why it’s so important to Americans. I try to teach the history (ok, fake story) and the traditions, but to them, it’s just an excuse for Americans to get even fatter by eating all day and it really makes me sad that they think that. :( Thanksgiving is actually what I miss most, besides 24 hour stores and furnaces.

So because I can’t have a real Thanksgiving here, and because it’s cold and gray every single day now, I’m getting a little depressed. Actually, I’m more annoyed at the lack of heat in buildings. Being cold makes me cranky and tired, and I am always cold now thanks to no heat in our apartment, and no heat in the hallways or bathrooms and even some classrooms at work. Plus I have to go outside a lot more than I did in Michigan, which is how I try to explain why winter in the US is not as bad as winter here even though it’s much colder in North America. I could drive my car everywhere – no walking or waiting outside. Plus there are furnaces and adequate heating unlike the useless radiators found here. (Yes, yes, I know France is trying to not destroy the planet by saving resources… but what’s the point of living if you’re going to be freezing and sick all the time??? It’s no wonder the French consume more medication that anyone in Europe….)

Stay tuned next week for my adventures in visiting a dentist for the first time in France and attempting to make a Thanksgiving dinner without an actual turkey!

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month…

By   November 11, 2007
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

– John McCrae

Hug a veteran today.

Air France and Summertime

By   October 27, 2007

David’s father was returning from Thailand this morning and he made it safely to Paris. Then Air France decided to go on strike, so his flight to Geneva was cancelled, as well as all other flights within France until MONDAY. They’ve also cancelled several international flights. So papa had to rush to Gare de Lyon to hop on the TGV to Annecy, which probably cost 50 €, and he won’t get his money back for the Paris-Geneva flight. Strikes sure are awesome.

P.S. Turn your clocks back an hour tonight! Daylight Saving Time (sorry, Summertime period) ends in Europe this weekend, but it doesn’t take affect in the US until next weekend. So I’ll be 5 hours later than Michigan for a week.

P.S.S. Je suis en vacances !!! No more work until November 8!

Rugby World Cup

By   October 6, 2007

David has been watching the France vs. New Zealand (which I’m told is the best team, or is it South Africa?) rugby game for the past two hours. Apparently they just won. I have no idea what this means. But David says they are now in the semi-finals. I tried watching the last few minutes, and rugby games are 80 minutes long (hey, I do know something about rugby!), but the clock didn’t stop at 80 minutes, so I was extra confused. I understand this game as much as I understand football. ::sigh:: Though I think I’d prefer to watch rugby in France than football in the US. No annoying commercial breaks every 2 minutes! At least I understand soccer since I used to play it. But this country’s obsession with soccer and rugby is just as bad as the US’s obsession with football and basketball. Aren’t there more important things in the world besides sports?

La Poste

By   September 25, 2007

I have a love/hate relationship with the post office in France. On the one hand, their trucks are a cute yellow color and the new cow stamps are so adorable. Seriously, there’s one cow singing “Ne meuuh quitte pas…” and another says “Oh, mais quel joli timbre!” (Ne me quitte pas means don’t leave me; but meuuh is how French cows say moo. A timbre is a stamp, but this word also means the tone quality of your voice when you’re singing. Genius, I tell you!)

But they lost my new carte de séjour this summer. I still don’t have the replacement one after 6 weeks of waiting, so now I’m worrying the second one got lost.

I’m still waiting for my French driver’s license too. I had to buy a trackable envelope (Distingo Suivi) for them to send it back to me when it was done, and I’ve been checking online for nearly two months to see if it’s been sent yet. Now it tells me that, today, September 25, “Le courrier a été déposé dans la boîte à lettres du destinataire.” But wait, there’s nothing in my mailbox today! ::sigh::

I’m hoping they just jumped the gun a little and it’s still at the sorting center in Annecy or maybe it’s sitting in our little local office waiting to be delivered tomorrow…

Please enter the 21st century, France.

By   September 18, 2007

David did another concours test today so he can find a new job. He had to use the Minitel in order to take it! The Minitel. Which was popular in the 80’s. Apparently the direction du travail has not heard of the actual internet…

Then I saw this dude on the news tonight. He’s Bernard Thibault, the secrétaire général of the CGT (Confédération Générale du Travail). I don’t think he realizes that he stole Tim Robbins haircut from 1979. At least he has the awesomest haircut of any government official!

Customer Serwhat?

By   September 7, 2007

I hate you, French customer service. It’s as if you don’t even exist here. Oh Conforama, why did it take two weeks instead of a few days to give us our new bookcase? The receipt clearly stated we could pick it up the 23rd of AUGUST, not the 7th of SEPTEMBER. What’s that? You want us to keep calling back every few days to see if it’s finally there? You want us to pay for those calls too? How about marking down the price since it’s your fault it wasn’t there when you said it would be? “No reduction is possible because it’s a featured item in the rentrée catalog.” Well, I really don’t care. And what difference does that make anyway??? And I suppose unloading those mattresses was more important than the 4 customers waiting in line to pick up their furniture. But what’s so bad about waiting in line for 30 minutes when we’ve already waited 2 weeks, eh?

Bye bye Conforama. I’m no longer buying my cheap furniture from you. I’d rather drive to Switzerland to shop at IKEA.

The Rudeness.

By   September 5, 2007

There’s one type of French people that I cannot stand. Those people who think they have every right to tell you that what you are doing/thinking is not right. They are nosy, pushy, and they jump to conclusions too fast and too often. They are condescending, arrogant, and just plain mean. I hate these people. And the best part? They are usually wrong in their “justification” of why you are wrong in the first place!

Sometimes this is the reason why I don’t want to go outside or downtown. I’m afraid of running into a rude Frenchie who thinks it’s perfectly ok to tell me that I am doing something “wrong” (according to them.) I wish these people would learn to just keep their mouths shut, but I know that’s not going to happen.

Some of my experiences include the woman who yelled at me for walking the dog on the SIDEWALK BACK TO MY APARTMENT because she thought that I was letting him go to the bathroom on the grass, when I had, in fact, taken him very far away to do his business. But she apparently didn’t hear/didn’t care what I had to say because she just kept repeating over and over again that dogs are not allowed on the grass and that children play there, etc. All this, while I was on the SIDEWALK! After I got back inside, I realized that she had parked in the lot for my building and she lives in the next building over, which is completely forbidden. I seriously wanted to egg her car, but I didn’t. Pas encore….

Then last week when I was waiting in a check-out line at the store, a punk teenager turns up the volume on his cell phone/mp3 player. (Why did anyone think this product would be anything more than an annoyance?) A loud woman at the back of the line goes off on him and commands him to turn it off, and then continues on about how if everyone had a cell phone that played music, on ne serait jamais tranquil and blah blah blah… She just wouldn’t stop talking. I was glad the kid turned his phone off, but I wanted to yell at the woman for being such a garce.

And two other experiences that I’ve read just in the past few days:

Poor Joy was just trying to ask a question, and a crêpe vendor treats her like an idiot.

Mlle Smith is patronized for “thinking like an American” after explaining her opinion on Sarkozy’s reluctance for Turkey to join the EU… and then informed that Turkey does not border Iraq or Iran. And people think Americans are bad at geography?

They constantly try to belittle you and convince the whole world that you are an idiot and that they know everything. But for the others who are standing nearby and have to listen to their rants… well, it makes those people look like complete jerks.

I’m definitely not saying that all French people are like this. I hate generalizing about a country’s population, such as “all Americans love hamburgers and Coke.” But it does seem that the French just don’t know when they have crossed the line sometimes…

The only good thing about their rudeness is that it’s directed at everyone, not just foreigners!

Cosette no more

By   August 30, 2007

I took my new kitty to the vet today to get checked out, only to discover to that she is a he. The vet even had a hard time telling that it was male, but yeah, my Cosette needed a new name.

Apparently in France, you’re supposed to name your pets according to which Letter Year it is. For pets born in 2007, it’s the letter C. (Though we had no idea about this when we chose Cosette last week).

So, according to Laboratoire TVM, here are some suggested names for male pets born this year: Caballero, Cactus, Cadburry, Caillou, Calvin, Canyon, Capone, Caporal, Captain, Carambar, Caramel, Carbone, Cartoon, Caruso, Cash, Catch, Caviar, Chamallow, Charlot, Chaz, Check, Cheddar, Chianti, Chips, Chipster, Chorizo, Chraz, Chuncky, Citrus, Clovis, Clown, Cobra, Codex, Cognac, Colonel, Confettis, Cool, Cosby, Couscous, and Cowboy.

Needless to say, we flipped the list over and looked through the female names instead. Our kitten is now called Canaille (rascal), which is definitely less feminine-sounding and more appropriate for our little whiny brat.

Drinky drinks.

By   August 29, 2007

Why is there no plain iced tea in France??? I do not want your stupid Peach-flavored Ice Tea, Lipton. Can’t you sell anything else in this country? I can’t even find regular green tea in the store. Some people don’t like mint or lemon! ::sigh::

And why do so many people like drinking l’eau pétillant (carbonated water)? I hate that stuff. It’s like drinking air bubbles and I’m just as thirsty afterwards anyway. I do find it hilarious, however, when French people translate it as “water with gas.”

On a sociolinguistic note, it’s interesting that the French say boisson fraîche (cool drink) for cold drink and they very rarely use ice because they think that drinking cold liquids is bad for your health. Coincidence?